CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Do not fear or lose hope July 1 protest marchers told

HONG KONG (SE): Prior to the annual July 1 protest march, Church leaders urged around 250 participants at an ecumenical prayer meeting held at Paterson Street, Causeway Bay, not to fear or lose hope, but continue to show mercy and fight for justice and most importantly to keep one’s conscience alive. Those present were urged to defend the city with Christian values. 
 
The service was organised by the Justice and Peace Commission, the Commission for Labour Affairs, Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students, the Hong Kong Christian Institute, Christians for Hong Kong Society as well as the Christian Social Concern Fellowship to mark the 21st anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese sovereignty.
 
The theme of the prayer meeting, Guarding our posts faithfully, a defense of our city, was a response to the recent repressions from the authorities and the unjust systems of economic and social governance, according to an organiser.
 
Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, the former pastor of the Chai Wan Baptist Church and one of the leaders of the Occupy Central movement in 2014, told the rally that mercy, kindness and fairness seemed to be missing. He cited the arrest of an 80-year-old female hawker by 15 officers and the heavy jail sentences levied on young activists, while noting that those involved in deadly riots of 1967 and who violate building regulations are lauded and appointed as senior officials. 
 
In spite of persecutions against those fighting for human rights, democracy and freedom, Christians must not fear to uphold justice as we are to carry the cross, Reverend Chu said.
 
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing of Hong Kong, reminded those present to always remember their duties as Christians by following the example of the doctors and medical staff who sacrificed their lives during the SARS outbreak in 2003. He explained that Christians have a duty to differentiate right from wrong guided by their conscience and to stop the evil from conquering the world. 
 
Calling on people not to resort to violence, although they might feel hopeless, he cited Romans 12:19 which says, “… live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.” He encouraged them to defend the city of God with love, forgiveness and sympathy, citing Romans 12:21 which says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.
 
Mary Chan Yuk-wan said she joined the prayer meeting because she sensed a lack of hope in the city. She felt frustrated, particularly over the disqualification of elected legislators as they were legitimately chosen by the people of Hong Kong to express their views. 
 
Edith Yung Lai-fong, another participant, said she was sad and angry over the imprisonment of young people who participated in demonstrations as it could break the hearts of their parents and discourage other young people from getting involved in politics.
 
Referring to recent reports about the mismanagement of public construction works, Bishop Ha noted that people might feel disappointed by the failing economic and social systems of Hong Kong, yet they should not be “overtaken by the evils of indifference, reprisals or violence.” 
 
The bishop reminded everyone to continue to show concern for society, no matter how small the changes might be. The gathering concluded with a blessing.
 
Those gathered then joined some 50,000 people for the annual protest march organised by the Hong Kong Civic Human Rights Front (CHRF), which called for an end to one-party dictatorship in China and the cessation of interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs. 
 
The rally, which included pro-democracy political parties, labour groups, human rights and civic groups, began at 3.00pm at the central lawn of Victoria Park, with many groups joining the procession along the route despite attempts by authorities to make things difficult for them. The march arrived the Central Government Offices in Tamar at 5.00pm and concluded just before 7.00pm.
 
The annual ecumenical prayer meeting used to be held at the music kiosk of the Victoria Park until last year. The organisers of the march were also stymied—for the second year running—from using their traditional gathering spot on the park’s six football pitches and forced to give way to pro-establishment handover activities, assembling instead on the adjacent, but smaller central lawn. The football pitches have been the assembly and kickoff point for the march since it began on 1 July 2003 
 
According to Jackie Hung Ling-yu, a member of the CHRF, the central lawn was not the desired location for the rally. However she said suppression presented opportunities for concern groups to join the rally in different ways along the route and helped participants express themselves everywhere in Causeway Bay that day.
 
Among the protesters was a group of ethnic minority residents protesting racism and racial discrimination and calling for recognition of their identity as Hongkongers. 
 
Other protesters also showed their support for the release of Liu Xia, wife of Nobel Peace laureate, Liu Xiaobo, who died in custody in July 2017. 
 
Speaking that morning at the official handover celebrations at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai, chief executive, Carrie Lam, said that the government would not tolerate anything that went against China’s bottom line, that is One country being the foundation.
 
The People’s Daily, China’s official newspaper, said the political environment in Hong Kong was more stable and that deep-rooted conflicts have to be resolved for good governance. 
 
However, former chief secretary, Anson Chan, said she joined the July 1 march because she thinks the One country, Two systems principle is being eroded. 

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